In Project Gotham Racing 2, I am ranked 4999th in the world, or at least I was at 3:30 this morning when I signed off. That's not bad out of 224k people who race this online game. I've been around the block a few times, but last night I saw something I never saw before. Upon reflection it doesn't seem to be much, but I was very impressed at the time.
Just like in the Matrix, everything about these simulated worlds are driven by rules. Sometimes there are gaps or glitches in the rules which allow the observant and persistent to bend them. For the most part however, most people play the game and enjoy themselves within the constraints of the playing field.
Last night, a modder went 450 miles per hour. This is the equivalent of Neo flying in the Matrix.
A modder is someone who takes apart a digital appliance and modifies the hardware or software to add features to an ordinary game. This is very much like the aftermarket for cars, except it's chips. By doing so, a modder can bend or break rules or even add their own.
In PGR2 there are a collection of about 100 automobiles for racing, each with its own speed, colors and handling characteristics. In the original version, which has twice been updated by the manufacturer with expansion packs. A well known, and perhaps the only flaw in the game was known as the 'Color Glitch'. Through a series of button clicks on the XBox controller, a player could change the colors of a car. This was notably done on the Porsche GT1, one of the most desirable cars in the game which was only available in white. Players who mastered the Color Glitch would appear at the start of a race with orange or black GT1s, thus announcing their status to the rest of the players. As more people learned the Color Glitch, races would take forever to start as players would try to outdo each other by picking cool colors. That all stopped three months ago with the addition of the Paris Booster Pack which also patched the bug.
I was in the company of two young modders, a 19 year old kid from Philly and a 13 year old from somewhere in Canada. Philly did the hack. Canuck offered to set up a webcam session and show me how to mod my own XBox.